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Re: [XTalk] The Streetlight Fallacy

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  • Gordon Raynal
    Hi Steve, ... The question: Why the creeps? Comments: 1. If Mark is what we have, then in principle no historical research can be done. One has to have
    Message 1 of 97 , Jan 2, 2005
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      Hi Steve,
      A pointed note. A question and some comments below it:

      > --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Loren Rosson <rossoiii@y...>
      > wrote:
      >> All I can say is this: If you beleve the likes of
      >> Allison, Sanders, Fredriksen, and Ehrman are
      >> uncritical -- or merely have pretensions to be
      >> critical -- because their diligent and carefully
      >> considered reconstructions of Jesus are **close
      >> relatives** (not Christological copies) of the
      >> synoptic Jesus, then you and I live in different
      >> universes!
      > I think I'm just making this up, the streetlight fallacy, but maybe
      > not. The fallacy label comes from the joke about the drunk crawling
      > around at night under a streelight when a cop comes up and asks him
      > what he is doing. Drunks says he's looking for his car keys that
      > he'd dropped. Did you drop them right here, cop asks. Drunk responds
      > that, no, he didn't drop them here, but here is where the light is.
      > If we rule out such sources as Paul and John and Thomas (Sanders,
      > e.g., ignores Thomas without explanation in his pretension to
      > critical work) and etc. we are left with the synoptics. It follows
      > that if this is the light, this is where we find whatever it is that
      > we find. Then we discover that the synoptics are essentially a
      > mostly fictional narrative created by Mark, ruling out any major,
      > maybe any whatsoever, contributions to historical knowledge of J via
      > Luke and Matthew. (And do we learn much from Q that isn't implicit
      > in Mark? There's more of it in Q, whatever it is, but what is there
      > that is supposedly historically reliable in Q that is significantly
      > not present in Mark?).
      > So we have Mark and that's basically it. And we know, or should
      > know, that Mark has cobbled together a bunch of sayings into a
      > narrative of his own invention featuring a progression towards an
      > execution that certainly wasn't the main feature of Jesus' life even
      > if he keeps saying it will be. Along with a bunch of miracles that
      > didn't happen, and a long passion narrative (for which the life,
      > famously, is an extended introduction) that recent authorities seem
      > to agree is midrashic fiction. Heck, dear Bill Arnal concludes that
      > even the baptism narrative is fictional. What the heck isn't
      > fictional in Mark?
      > So, when we find the likes of Sanders coming up with an historical
      > Jesus that is a close relative to the Jesus of Mark ( aka synoptic )
      > I think we have the streetlight fallacy. It's our only evidence,
      > really, and even if it is untrustworthy and mainly fiction that's
      > what we go with.
      > Gives me the creeps it does.
      > Steve

      The question: Why "the creeps?"

      1. If Mark is what we have, then in principle no historical research
      can be done. One has to have more than one source, eh;)? All the
      talk about "Mark's historical reliability" or "trustworthiness as a
      historical resource" is simply an assertion without data to back it up.
      As you note, going on to Matthew and Luke is of no help whether they
      derived their stories textually or from "oral traditions," for where
      there is repetition, then it's Mark's basic story being repeated and
      then for all those confounding changes that are either shared or unique
      to each, we have no source materials for them. We're single stuck with
      single sources and one can do no research beyond that! I wouldn't use
      "creeps," (and am interested in why you do) I'd just say that we should
      stop pretending to do historical study.
      2. Despite all the assertions for those who want to claim to be heirs
      of Schweitzer's reading of Mark, I'm not sure why they want to call
      Jesus "an apocalyptic prophet." Mark's Jesus is no such thing, he's
      the suffering servant messiah who is glorified to heavenly rule. This
      is right clear from the first sentence, eh;)? And the legacy of this
      group is not best described as an apocalyptic community, but a cultic
      community. That the apocalyptic resources were utilized as **part** of
      casting who this messianic figure was goes without saying, but Jesus is
      more importantly cast in terms of classical prophecy, the Davidic
      covenant, the role of new Moses and Solomonic wisdom (and let's not
      forget Melkizidek:)!). That some communities early on went a bit zoo-y
      on "end times" ferment only tells us that some of those Gentiles didn't
      quite get the ramifications of Jewish eschatological thought (this sort
      of zoo-i-ness has a rather long history, itself). All the Gospels,
      yes, even Mark, are exegetical works meant for what they've been used
      for for nigh onto 2 millennia now... feasting celebration, sermonizing,
      scriptural reflection, etc. If we want to peer underneath Mark's
      messiah (and to do this one has to affirm some resources available to
      us from such as Paul, Thomas, Q, the Didache, Josephus... so we have
      more than one source to work with), well this goes to show, in my view,
      that Mark didn't think Jesus was "an apocalyptic prophet" either:)!
      One who "only speaks in parables" isn't doing prophetic utterances by
      any definition from the Hebraic heritage!
      3. Back to the other subject line about historical research and the
      viability of Christianity hanging in the balance, folks would do well
      to read a book like Jaroslav Pelikan's book about Christ across the
      centuries. That book rather nicely lays out the many view of Christ
      that have been variously created and focused on across these 2
      millennia. They are numerous and they go to show the rich tapestry of
      what reading the Gospels has led to. Back to Schweitzer's rather stoic
      picture of a failed, but courageous millennial figure this rather makes
      much sense in light of the European world at the turn of the last
      century. And this is to say, that Schweitzer's characterization fits
      nicely as one of the creative works of exegetical imagination. Notably
      he left the schoolhouse and went off to doctoring after this leaving
      the growing nightmare world for a place where he could practice a bit
      of human care. If that's the legacy of his sort of portraiture, then
      hey, not bad! But, of course, the making of exegetical portraits isn't
      doing history.
      Gordon Raynal
      Inman, SC
    • John E Staton
      Rick wrote: I wonder what a Galilean Darlek would look like I haven t a clue, but I know what one would *say*: EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE! Incidentally, I
      Message 97 of 97 , Jan 6, 2005
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        Rick wrote: "I wonder what a Galilean Darlek would look like"

        I haven't a clue, but I know what one would *say*:

        Incidentally, I apologise to our wonderful moderator for my earlier use of
        President Bush's favourite weapon: the pre-emotive strike!!

        Best Wishes
        Penistone, Sheffield UK
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